by Brian Clarke | originally published at Bloody Underrated
Despair and hope appear in equal measure on Paul Federici’s second album, Now and Then. The strongest example of this contrast is the closing track “One Day You’ll Be Right.” One of only two song titles that don’t allude to negative emotions, the name suggests optimism until the listener is confronted with the full lyric that it comes from: “Live like it’s our last day, ’cause one day you will be right.” Despite the line’s fatalistic twist, there is something darkly inspiring about the attitude towards life that it promotes.
Dark and inspiring is an apt description for the majority of Now and Then‘s lyrics. However, the album opens with its most hopeful and upbeat song, “Sail On.” It’s possible Federici thought it was important to give the listener a glimpse of happiness before the rest of the album’s lyrics plunged into darkness. Musically, the song sets a foundation from which the album’s 8 songs hardly deviate. Acoustic guitars used for both simple rhythms and intricate lead parts, light percussion and a variety of orchestral stringed instruments come together to create a folk sound combined with a radio-friendly pop sound. The pop influence is most evident in Paul’s light and melodic vocal delivery, which, while polished, is not lacking in emotion.
From the little time I spent looking into Federici’s online presence, I was struck by how open he was about his struggles with mental illness. He discusses it openly in interviews and chose “Strange Disease,” a song that addresses the issue lyrically in an abstract and relatable way, as the first single, a bold and inspired decision. The accompanying music video is a little more direct than the song’s lyrics. It incorporates medical imagery into typical social interactions, artfully commenting on the feeling of alienation associated with mental illness.
Now and Then is available to stream, download and on CD via Bandcamp. The opening track “Sail On” is free and the whole album is available for $8. Also available for $8 is his first record, Relative Importance.